Stepmother take no prisoners: they came to make a noise and this sharp, snappy visit to Planet Brutalicon sees the three-piece do just that with fuzzy, feral rock that’ll soon have the neighbours filing formal complaints.

Release date: September 29, 2023 | Tee Pee Records | Instagram | Bandcamp | Spotify

A trio from Down Under who are very much on top form is possibly the best way to describe Stepmother. The Australian-based power trio dabble in dark psychedelia and rock ‘n’ roll with a serrated punk-ish edge. Planet Brutalicon is the band’s debut full length after a 2022 self-titled EP, which consisted of three tracks that all make a triumphant return here amongst other sonically charged offerings. This isn’t audio fodder for amblers, but rather music that perfectly suits travelling dark roads at high speeds – dangerously so. Better keep an eye on that speedometer, you hear?

With that PSA out of the way, I’m delighted to report that Planet Brutalicon wastes no time in laying the smack down with “Fade Away” – a thumping opener comprising raucous riffs, relentlessly grooving drums from Sam Rains, and multitudes of noodly lead guitar lines. It even has an echoing earworm of a chorus courtesy of lead vocalist/guitarist Graham Clise (of Witch and Lecherous Gaze among others). This first track makes an immediate and striking impression. In fact, the only real downside to starting so strongly is that it makes it difficult to even progress beyond track one without hitting repeat and slamming headfirst into it again.

As tricky as it is, though, make sure you do move past the first song because the same thickly filthy, fuzzy proto-punkish noise prevails across all of Planet Brutalicon. Moreover, it can be difficult to truly appreciate the fullness of each song on the first trip round given their pace and bite, so multiple listens will yield increased adoration for the band’s sound. You’ll rarely find tracks outlasting three-and-a-half minutes, but this record is clearly about damage not duration, and I suspect it’s just the way Stepmother like it – hard and fast with little rest. The bass work of Rob Muinos drives tirelessly, and riffs punch and drip with attitude (looking at you, “Waiting For The Axe” and “Stalingrad”), matching the spirited yet tuneful vocal pairing of Clise and Muinos.

The album’s tempo does fluctuate in places to help vary a collection of songs that might otherwise sound mildly repetitive to the casual listener. These moments on Planet Brutalicon ease the pace a touch, allowing you to catch your breath: take the driving rock singalong of “One Way Out” and slightly sombre successor “Do You Believe”. The latter is the record’s longest track (which isn’t saying much) and employs a more plodding, stoner-centric sensibility at its core. However, these and even the classic-sounding clean guitar glimmers and tambourine of “Signed D.C.” that follow later are not impervious to the dense fuzz and glinting lead work of Clise, which routinely resurface to overthrow any ounce of calm with their distorted ways.

Thoroughly enjoyable from its start to the heatwave of “El Gusano” and its tremolo-laden mesa boogie, it’s honestly difficult to pick favourites from the roster of Planet Brutalicon – and perhaps it’s trite of me to do so – but I must admit I found myself returning most frequently to “Settle Down”, “Here Comes The End”, and that phenomenally frantic opening number from the Melbourne musicians. The subtle changes in dynamic across the album are a treat and help avoid mundanity, but these were the biggest attention clinchers for me.

Stepmother are a must-hear if frenetic chops and rock without stops are what you crave in your music. Sure, it might be something of a whirlwind visit as high-octane riffs and hollering tunes about nuclear armageddon, torture, and supernatural entities blur into one distorted haze, but it’s a great ride – one that will ultimately leave you wanting a return journey to the shores of Planet Brutalicon time and time again.

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